Written by Petty Officer 1st Class Levi Read
He had been searching for suitable housing for months with no luck. It didn’t matter what search engine he used, site he visited or resource he used – there was no housing available for him and his family, but he had to move his family anyway. The family began their 3,000-mile journey from Cape May, New Jersey, to Florence, Oregon, knowing where they were going but not knowing where they were going to live.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Steglich, a machinery technician at Station Siuslaw River, and his family had something going for them that they didn’t recognize at first – they were moving to a community that loved their Coast Guard and was soon to be designated as the newest Coast Guard City. The command at Station Siuslaw River and the partnerships they developed within the community were working behind the scenes to help and welcome the incoming family.
Realtors at a local real estate agency became aware of the situation and worked with a homeowner who was trying to sell his home. The homeowner slightly changed his plans and decided to rent his home to the Steglich family.
“The real estate agency basically went to bat for us and our personnel,” said Master Chief Petty Officer Timothy Tregoning, officer in charge, Coast Guard Station Siuslaw River. “The partnerships we’ve developed and nurtured in the community have proved extremely beneficial in securing adequate housing for our crew in an extraordinarily completive rental market. Our neighbors appreciate the stresses Coast Guard families encounter when moving, and are eager to help integrate us into their community.”
The citizens of Florence fully recognize and understand the housing shortages that exists within their community, and have gone out of their way to make sure Coast Guard men and women have a home sooner than later when they move into the community.
“Juggling our needs and the housing shortages is only part of what this community does for this Coast Guard unit, personnel and extended family,” said Tregoning. “Ever since I took the watch here two years ago, the community has been behind the unit 100 percent and I only see the support continuing to grow.”
Tregoning and his wife, Amy, shared other examples about how the community earned the Coast Guard City designation including how the schools are hands-on and enthusiastic about getting kids involved in their new school; how the local hospital administrative personnel actively assist families in locating and finding primary care managers; and how after school programs are often free or discounted for Coast Guard dependents and educational activities are regularly provided after school or on weekends for kids interested in science, technology and aviation.
“I think a big part of why this community stands behind us is because of the nearly dozen veteran groups or societies that are active within Florence,” said Tregoning as he counted them by raising his fingers and naming them from memory. “Another big factor is the action of our local Coast Guard Auxiliary. Auxiliary members are the link between the community and active duty personnel.”
Auxiliary members volunteer at the station and work as communication watchstanders three to four days a week. They cook in the galley, participate in community events, teach boating safety courses in Florence and also target westbound Eugene boaters before they even hit the water. One of the auxiliary members, Deborah Cordone, was a driving force behind applying for the Coast Guard City designation and even planted the seed into her neighbor’s ear who happened to be Mayor Joe Henry. Her love for the local Coast Guard unit and personnel began with a few photo opportunities from her backyard that ended up on the front page of the Siuslaw News.
Cordone, a retired police officer from the California Bay area ended up joining the Coast Guard Auxiliary program as a public affairs specialist shortly after taking those front-page photos. With the support of the newspaper staff at Siuslaw News the public’s awareness of the Coast Guard grew exponentially during the last few years as more than 50 Coast Guard related stories and photos were published in the newspaper, community calendars and even the front-cover of the city phone book.
Coast Guard personnel have also made efforts to be of assistance to Florence beyond search and rescue. Many of the youth sports programs are coached or officiated by Coast Guardsmen. Coast Guard families helped create and organize teenage youth sporting programs that didn’t previously exist. Others volunteer with the local fire department, which in turn provides Coast Guardmen the opportunity to certify as emergency medical technicians.
The Coast Guard has been in Florence since 1917, but went relatively unnoticed for many years. The reason for that may be because the unit sits in a quiet neighborhood a few miles downriver and usually only can be seen from the water.
“I had no idea that the Coast Guard has been in our town for 100 years, even though I regularly go on fishing trips with my family and have been assisted on the water a couple of times,” said Kyle Colby, resident, City of Florence.
Other residents expressed happiness and excitement of the Coast Guard City designation including about 25 people who mentioned the new sign to Henry within an hour of it being put in place underneath the welcome to Florence, Oregon, sign on Highway 126, the main corridor into town from the east.
“Being a Coast Guard City means that the city stands behind our Coast Guard and its service,” said Kevin Herbig, a Florence resident.
Whether it is finding shelter, medical care, welcoming kids into school and making that transition easier or businesses offering military discounts, the community of Florence has shown their love and support for the Coast Guard. Even the neighbors of the Coast Guard along the river love the lighting of the diesel engines, at dawn of the 47-foot Motor Life Boats going out for the first light bar report, expressing its part of the coastal ambiance.